A case involving state secrets, the open records law and union jobs went before Georgia’s Supreme Court Monday. It pits the state and Kia Motors against workers who say they were passed over for jobs at the carmaker’s West Point plant.
To lure Kia here, Georgia agreed to hire workers for the plant.
And the case centers on a records request by union workers to learn how the state screened applications. The lawsuit says that 150 former union autoworkers applied for jobs, but only one was hired.
The workers also argue that Georgia lawmakers re-wrote the state’s open records law to keep them from accessing the hiring documents.
Gerry Weber represents the workers. He says the law blocks access to hiring records associated with a pending lawsuit. And he says that violates the state Constitution.
“Our clients did what every citizen would do," he said in an interview after the hearing. "They asked for records. When the records were denied, they filed a lawsuit. And the General Assembly attempted to upend that lawsuit, to take it away from them. And we believe that the Constitutional claims are our strongest.”
The state says the workers don’t have a right to view the records. It also argues legislators can amend a law even if it’s the subject of litigation.
The case generated a lot of back and forth questioning with the justices. Carl Cannon, a lawyer for Kia, said a public record has no intrinsic value. But Justice Harold Melton disagreed.
“It has no particular value to me other than that I can look at it," he told the justices. "I can’t sell it. I can’t do anything with it because other every members of the public can get that document.
But Justice Melton interrupted him, saying, "You don’t know that. People trawl public documents all the time to sell.”
Kia declined comment, citing the pending litigation.
The high court will have six months to decide if the case can proceed in a lower court.